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All Souls rings 'Abolition Bell' for Iraq dead

Washington, D.C., Unitarian church rings its 1822 Revere bell to honor soldiers and Iraqis killed in the war.
By Jane Greer
9.6.05

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As 75 people clasped hands in silence Thursday morning outside All Souls Church, Unitarian, in Washington, D.C., its historic Revere Bell of Freedom tolled 18 times: 9 times to honor the American soldiers killed in Iraq this past week and 9 times in honor of Iraqis killed in the war.

The bell tolled at the conclusion of a ceremony launching a nationwide interfaith campaign, “Ringing for Remembrance,” sponsored by the National Council of Churches and Faithful America. The campaign invites churches and religious institutions to ring bells weekly for Americans and Iraqis killed that week. According to Rob Keithan, director of the Washington Office for Advocacy of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, 400 institutions have signed on.

The campaign is being organized by the NCC’s on-line activism organization, Faithful America; Clergy and Laiety Concerned About Iraq; and Democracy Rising, an antiwar organization led by Ralph Nader.

Among the speakers at the ceremony were Nader, who suggested the idea to the NCC; the Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., CEO of the Hip-Hop Caucus; Vince Isner, the director of Faithful America; and All Souls’ senior minister, the Rev. Rob Hardies. “This is a great opportunity for lay people, who often feel powerless, to make a statement,” said Hardies. “I see the bell ringing as a means of bearing witness to the human cost of the war.”

The Revere Bell of Freedom was cast in 1822 by Paul Revere’s son Joseph. It was once considered one of the official bells of Washington and was rung for fires and to mark the death of public figures. The bell fell out of favor after being used to toll the death of abolitionist John Brown in 1859, earning it the name the Abolition Bell. Since then, the bell has been rung for many human rights causes, as well as for weekly church services. St. John’s Episcopal Church owns the only other Revere Bell in Washington.

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